SpaceX Is Launching a Solar Sail the Size of a Boxing Ring

WIRED | 6/24/2019 | Daniel Oberhaus
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Later this evening, SpaceX is expected to launch its massive Falcon Heavy rocket on its third and most complicated mission from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Previous Falcon Heavy launches each carried a single large payload—a Tesla roadster and an Arab telecommunication satellite—but this launch will carry two dozen satellites into Earth orbit. The entire mission will last over six hours due to the fact that the rocket’s upper stage must deliver its payloads to three different orbits. The four-hour launch window will open at 11:30 pm ET.

The satellites onboard the Falcon Heavy will be used to demonstrate new technologies and collect a wealth of scientific data. This includes testing an atomic clock for deep space navigation and a new ultrasafe green satellite fuel, studying radiation and space weather, and demonstrating WiFi communication between cubesats and GPS signals for weather forecasts. But arguably the star of the show is the Planetary Society’s LightSail 2, which will navigate its orbit using pressure from light particles hitting the sail.

LightSail - Consists - Cubesat - Size - Loaf

The LightSail 2 consists of a small cubesat about the size of a loaf of bread that will catch a ride inside the PROX-1, a small satellite designed by students at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The PROX-1 spacecraft will be deployed during the Falcon Heavy’s third and final destination in orbit, which will occur about an hour after launch. After about a week, the satellites deposited in the third orbit will have drifted apart from one another and the PROX-1 spacecraft will deploy the LightSail 2 cubesat using a small spring. After some testing to make sure everything is working correctly, the cubesat will begin to unfurl its mylar sail, which is about the size of a boxing ring and thinner than a human hair.

For at least a month, the LightSail 2 will...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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